The nonprofit and the restaurant are joining forces to help Baltimore families with diaper needs and other essentials for children.

Approximately 25,000. That’s how many diaper-age children are estimated to be living in poverty in Baltimore and whose parents struggle to afford diapers and other essentials.

Amina Ross, executive director of the local nonprofit ShareBaby, says the problem is widespread.

“Diapers are a loophole in federal assistance to families and are an unallowable expense through any federal safety net program,” says Ross. “According to the National Diaper Bank Network, one in three American families experience diaper need. It’s not just an issue facing the very poor but it’s affecting many families across the country that are struggling at a time of vulnerability.”

ShareBaby started as a place to donate new and used baby items and has since grown into something more.

“The founders of ShareBaby realized that Baltimore was one of the only urban centers in the country that did not have a diaper bank serving its population, so ShareBaby not only became this baby pantry but became a diaper bank to serve Baltimore,” says Ross.

ShareBaby's founders

Maya Ammons, Kate Mumaw and Kristen Finkelstein

Three mothers in the Baltimore area — Maya Ammons, Kate Mumaw and Kristen Finkelstein — founded ShareBaby in 2014 as a way to connect mothers of means with mothers in need.

“We realized there was no effective way for moms in Baltimore to donate baby items their children had outgrown or no longer needed to babies who needed those items,” says Finkelstein, a board member. “We wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between those who have items to give but didn’t have a way to ensure those items were given directly to babies in need.”

ShareBaby operates out of a warehouse at the Mill Centre in Woodberry. To date, the group has distributed more than 125,000 diapers to more than 1,000 families.

“We are now setting out to move to a larger warehouse space in the same area and ramp up our diaper distribution even more,” says Finkelstein. “We have a goal of delivering 2 million items by the close of 2019.”

On July 3 from 5 to 10 p.m., ShareBaby will team up with Chad Gauss, executive chef at La Food Marketa at Quarry Lake at Greenspring, for an event called “Tacopalooza,” which will raise funds for ShareBaby’s larger warehouse.

“We want a bunch of people to come have a good time and enjoy everything Chad Gauss has to offer,” Ross says. “The goal is for people to learn more about ShareBaby and La Food Marketa. We would love families to bring a pack of diapers. We will have a drop-off point. Most of the proceeds will go to supporting our work.”

“Tacopalooza” costs $50 in advance and $75 at the door. The price of admission includes food, drinks and entertainment. Attendees will enjoy many different dishes and drinks, including tacos, Churrasco meats, margaritas, mojitos, specialty beers and sangria. There will be a DJ, piñata raffle and taco-eating contest.

A father of three, Gauss says he hopes to make “Tacopalooza” an annual event.

“I like ShareBaby’s mission,” says Gauss. “It’s only natural to want to have children properly taken care of, and families just need help at times.”

Once enough money is raised for a larger warehouse, ShareBaby will be able to accept a large diaper donation to help even more families in need.

“We’ve recently qualified for the Huggies Diaper Drop Program, which essentially means a tractor-trailer will pull up with approximately 400,000 diapers from Huggies,” Ross says. “The only missing link in our ability to access this donation is our ability to move into a larger warehouse. Additionally, the Honest Co. donated 30,000 items to us last year and are interested in doing an ongoing 6,000 item-per-month donation to us next year, so we will need this warehouse to be able to store all of these incredible donations.”

ShareBaby partners with 15 community organizations, including Jewish Volunteer Connection, House of Ruth, The Family Tree and The Arc Baltimore.

“We’re grateful for our partnership with ShareBaby,” says JVC Assistant Director Erica Bloom. “It’s a win-win for both of our missions. JVC has connected volunteers with ShareBaby to assist them with their ongoing needs for sorting their inventory, packaging of donations, as well as increasing their donation collection.”

Dori Chait, a Baltimore mother of two, volunteers for ShareBaby.

“ShareBaby has filled a vital need in our community, one that I have learned a great deal about in recent years,” says Chait. “I know how difficult the transition into motherhood can be. Having enough clean diapers for your child should not be one of the stressors a mother is faced with.”

ShareBaby will accept any new or gently used baby items, including strollers, Pack ‘n Plays, baby carriers, feeding supplies, clothing, feminine hygiene products, diaper cream and wipes.

Ross says it’s inspiring to connect families and provide so many with needed items.

“We are thanked so often by so many people in the community that it’s a little embarrassing,” says Ross. “We think it’s a privilege that we are able to get these items in the hands of the families that need them the most. I feel very thankful that this is my work.”

For information, visit sharebaby.org.

Aliza Friedlander is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.

Top photo: Chad Gauss, left, chef and owner of La Food Marketa, and Amina Ross, executive director of ShareBaby, are pictured at Gauss’s restaurant. (Photo by Steve Ruark)

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